NHL teams shouldn’t simply hand the “C” to their best player

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To be honest, I often roll my eyes when people attach a mountainous amount of importance to “leadership.” In most of those cases, the player in question was just really good. (Mark Messier didn’t get by on being scary looking alone, after all.)

That being said, it seems like quite a few NHL teams flippantly give their best player the captain’s “C” even if that guy is as inspiring as a tub of tapioca pudding.

Ovechkin and Nash: natural leaders?

It’s likely that Rick Nash and Alex Ovechkin exhibit better leadership qualities than an oddly textured dessert, but their recent runs in the spotlight got me thinking about this subject again.* While each player’s respective team is in a very different situation, it’s hard for me to an accept an argument that their teammates would “battle in the trenches” (or some other goofy and inappropriate war analogy) for them.

Sure, the Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t exactly overflowing with options for their captaincy, but they might as well have done a ceremonial shoulder shrug when they handed Nash the “C.” The Washington Capitals might be more misguided, however, as it is painfully obvious that Brooks Laich (and even Mike Knuble) is the superior choice.

Assuming that Nash and Ovechkin even wanted that honor, I’d imagine that they would have easily dried their tears with a few $100 bills from their enormous contracts.

Other examples

source: APThose two aren’t the only guys whose teams didn’t seem to put a lot of thought into the whole thing, though.

  • Ryan Getzlaf has a great mean streak and buckets of talent, but he hardly screams “captain material” – especially considering his tendency to take bad penalties.
  • Zach Parise has a lot of the qualities you look for, but the parallels between his situation and Ilya Kovalchuk’s* should make New Jersey Devils fans a little queasy.
  • Vincent Lecavalier’s improved recent play upgrades him from “colossally overpaid” to “significantly overpaid.” Still, I can’t see why the team didn’t hand the job to Martin St. Louis instead – unless he outright¬†refused it.
  • Mark Streit went from missing the entirety of the 2010-11 campaign to becoming the New York Islanders’ captain this season. It went by without much of a reaction because, let’s face it, we expect weird things from the Isles now.
  • I don’t have a big issue with them, but others might question the logic of appointing Joe Thornton, Dion Phaneuf, Jason Pominville and Milan Hejduk as captains

***

Ultimately, leadership is an intangible quality that is frequently blown out of proportion. Still, when things go bad, there are quite a few teams who seem to lack a go-to guy to turn to because management based their captaincy decision on box scores alone.

* – The moment that really planted this idea in my head came when the Atlanta Thrashers made Kovalchuk their captain. The team was desperate to keep the Russian star in the fold, so they handed him the “C” to try to convince him to stay. That failed spectacularly, and amusingly enough, Kovalchuk is displaying more leadership qualities in New Jersey than he ever did in Atlanta.